Demand for food relief has risen dramatically throughout the coronavirus pandemic with almost a third of people experiencing food insecurity for the first time, new data reveals.
Information collated from charities shows the casual workforce and international students are two newly food insecure groups emerging as a result of the pandemic.
Leading food relief organisation Foodbank released its 2020 Hunger Report on Monday, bringing together research with charities and people experiencing food insecurity between April and August.
As the full financial impact of the pandemic becomes apparent, we know it is the students, casualised workforce and newly unemployed who are really going to bear the brunt of this crisis.Dave McNamara, Foodbank Victoria chief executive
Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara said the effects of COVID-19 were devastating with demand for food relief up by an average 47 per cent in Australia since it was declared a pandemic.
"Many hardworking Victorians are now in situations they never anticipated, wondering how they are going to make ends meet, and how they are going to put food on the table," he said.
"As the full financial impact of the pandemic becomes apparent, we know it is the students, casualised workforce and newly unemployed who are really going to bear the brunt of this crisis."
The report highlighted young Australians were more likely to be doing it tough as a result of COVID-19, with 65 per cent of food insecure 18 to 25-year-olds going without food at least once a week.
In other findings, 59 per cent of food insecure Victorians skip a meal at least once a week, 44 per cent run out of food and cannot afford to buy more at least once a week and 38 per cent go a whole day without eating at least once a week.
The report says families on a low income, the unemployed, single-parent families, the homeless and people with a mental illness were the main groups accessing food relief prior to COVID-19 and had been accessing food relief more often since March.
Although government assistance is providing much needed temporary relief, almost 35 per cent of people don't know how they will cope or expect they will not cope well at all when this additional support is no longer available.
Despite many food insecure Australians being in urgent need of help, 39 per cent have not accessed food relief during the pandemic.
One third of those people thought there would be other people more in need, while a similar number did not seek help because of feeling embarrassment and shame.
Revelations in the Foodbank Hunger Report are consistent with comments from food relief agencies in Ballarat.
Salvation Army reported particular increases in requests for help from international students and Ballarat Foundation launched a new food relief service supplying food packages to schools and university students.
Federation University also set up a free community pantry for its students.
Two in five charities across Australia have seen an increase in the number of international students seeking food relief since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
International students are largely ineligible for government assistance due to their visa status and many lost their jobs due to the pandemic and have been unable to return home.
Foodbank Victoria supports six charity partners and 20 schools in Ballarat and is offering monthly Farms to Families markets in a hamper model during the pandemic.
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